We were lucky to catch up with Nathalie Lu recently and have shared our conversation below.
Nathalie, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. The first dollar you earn is always exciting – it’s like the start of a new chapter and so we’d love to hear about the first time you sold or generated revenue from your creative work?
It was a sunny Saturday morning at a local farmers and artisan market in Grapevine, Texas. I brought all the inventory I spent weeks making, found the most beautiful and unique fixtures I could, and nervously set up the outside pop-up shop. I had no experience with visual merchandising, so I did a practice run in my garage the week before. A supportive friend came along for the day, keeping me optimistic and company. My first market felt so exposing since I made everything. It’s much more personal in that sense. But sure enough, a woman stepped into my booth, not knowing she would be my first sale. I felt relief and excitement.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your background and context?
I began making macrame bracelets as a child. It wasn’t until my son began walking that I picked the craft up again. His precious curiosity was at the same level as my plants in the windowsill, and after a few accidents, I began making macrame plant hangers. The creativity just started springing up. I wound up with so many different styles and colors. Macrame wall hangings came soon after. That is much more of an art form, some quite abstract and one-of-a-kind.
Can you share a story from your journey that illustrates your resilience?
To have your own business, you must believe in yourself and have a community, even if it’s just a few people, that will support you. Unfortunately, some people whose opinion you care about just won’t believe in you. It probably won’t be worded that callously, but ultimately they will think it is in your best interest to stop and go work for someone else.
I was catching up with an old family friend one time, happily sharing about what our lives are like these days. The conversation went from kids to spouses, and then to work. When I was asked what work I am doing now, I shared that I started my own handmade macrame home goods business. Our conversation was so light-hearted, there was no indication that we were going to get into the nitty gritty of business talk, but my friend quickly told me that I should consider stopping so that I could go work for somebody else. I was taken aback and confused because she knew nothing about my business. She had just learned of it minutes before. Maybe my tone didn’t convey this, I struggle with false humility, but I was actually doing well on all accounts. Nonetheless, her words stung and echoed in my mind for a few days.
Ultimately, I had to decide if I agreed with her or not. The truth of the matter was she was uninformed, and jaded from a past entrepreneurial experience. I did not agree with her, and I am quite happy about the business I have built so far.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of being a creative in your experience?
Freedom and inner healing. My creativity is personal. It’s reflective of my inside, very much transforming something spiritual and emotional into something physical. To be authentic in that expression, I had to figuratively look in the mirror with open eyes. I had to be able to see what was actually going on inside, and sometimes that meant dealing with some difficult things. Some art pieces reflect different parts of that healing process.
I remember a large macrame tapestry I was excited about making. I had many sketches and mock-ups. The piece was about life, creation, and man being made from dirt. I was pregnant, and this theme was so real to me. I began cutting the cord for the piece one morning and after a few hours I had the piece strung up. This is the equivalent to a creating blank canvas, no decorative knots were actually tied yet. Early the next morning, quite sadly, I lost that baby. I was devastated, and after taking time to mourn that loss, I couldn’t bring myself to finish that piece. I tried, it just brought me to a deepness I couldn’t dwell in any longer. I decided I had to let that piece go, at least for the time, and I made it into something simple and methodic. A very simple geometric pattern. The same knots, a single pattern, that simply required going through the motions. That’s very much where I was in that month. Showing up, going through the motions, just surviving a breath at a time.
This loss created a deep empathy for mothers who have lost their pre-born baby, particularly those who go on to try again and have another baby. A dear friend shared with me that her neighbor was pregnant, and it was quite exciting because she was nearly ready to deliver. She had many losses prior. I knew I wanted to make a piece for her nursery. It was just as much for her as it was for me. I created a piece reminiscent of a rainbow in light of this rainbow baby. It was a lovely and joyful piece.
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The Gadbury Company, Ilona Jade, Tanner Garza, Amber Andersson